Pixel 6a and Installing GrapheneOS

I’ve been using GrapheneOS since 2019 with a Pixel 3a. Support ended May 2022 so it’s on to the next phone. The Pixel 6a will be supported for 5 years (up from 3 years). This is a big plus. More on the 3a vs 6a comparison later.


Normally, OEM unlocking would be available when first receiving the phone, but in this case the 6a needed an OTA update and then a factory reset in order for OEM unlocking to work. After doing that, I went to enable OEM unlocking but it was still greyed out. Huh. Before I could really start to worry, the option finally appeared. Probably still had to do a network check.

In 2019, I installed it on the command line. This time, I used the web installer and that was actually very easy. I used this laptop because it’s the only computer I have with a native USB C port, which allows me to use the stock cable included with the phone with no adapters. A faulty USB connection can cause issues installing the OS. The laptop is running Linux Mint 20.3. It’s not officially on the supported operating systems list, but it worked. The only thing I needed to install was the android-sdk-platform-tools-common package. Initially, I tried to use Firefox out of habit. When the USB connection wouldn’t work (the blue buttons didn’t do anything), I realized I needed to use Chromium. From here, you just follow the steps from this point.

I had no issues aside from not being familiar with the web installer UI. I waited an unnecessary amount of time on the Obtaining factory images step because I was expecting a more explicit indication that the downloading was done and to click the next step Flash release. It just goes from,



Downloaded release.

I didn’t notice that subtle difference from glancing up at the screen every few minutes. After a good while, I finally looked more closely and noticed the past tense “Downloaded.” I figured that must mean it’s done so I clicked Flash release and it finally started moving again. Now that I had a feel for the installer, I knew when I saw “Flashed” that flashing was done heh.

/posts/images/home1.png /posts/images/apps1.png


Given these posts (1 and 2), I decided to just migrate my data between phones manually. Exported and imported Contacts and FreeOTP+. Copied over my KeePass database. For Signal, I used the transfer from device option, which worked perfectly once I disconnected my VPN. After copying whatever else I needed from my home directory, that’s pretty much the extent of my migration. The rest is just reapplying a few OS settings and installing apps again. Here is what I’m using currently:

/posts/images/home2.png /posts/images/apps2.png


For the case, I was just going to get another RhinoShield SolidSuit that I had for the 3a. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available yet for the 6a so I had to look elsewhere. I finally landed on the dbrand Grip Case with a Matte Black skin. I liked the RhinoShield. I thought it was solid (no pun intended). It still is but I think the dbrand case is even better. It’s grippier (thanks to the textured dots and grip strips) and it has some nice detailed features like the chamfered lip and crescent arc. The latter I’m finding very useful now that I’ve started using gesture navigation after resisting and sticking to the 3-button navigation for so long. The skin system is pretty cool also.

3a vs 6a

Unsurprisingly, the 6a is an upgrade in every way. In particular, I was looking forward to the upgrade from eMMC storage to UFS given the performance hit with GrapheneOS' exec spawning.

I was a little disappointed with the headphone jack going away, but it’s not the end of the world. I did always think the output from it was a little weak. However, it was convenient to just plug in some earbuds quickly. I have a portable DAC/AMP so I’ll just always use that now.

These are the main highlights for me:

Pixel 3a Pixel 6a
$399 $449
64GB 128GB
eMMC 5.1 UFS 3.1
2 cameras 3 cameras
3.5mm jack NA
NA Wi-Fi 6e
3yrs of updates 5yrs of updates

And that’s it. Not too difficult, was it? If you’re interested in GrapheneOS and have questions, you can join either the Matrix rooms, discussion forum, or Twitter community. Details here.